Casey Kubara first picked up a hockey stick as a child, but just in the past month has hit major milestones as a serious member of Canberra’s Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) team.
On 18 June, the 24-year-old played his 100th game with CBR Brave, against the Newcastle Northstars, recording a 6-1 win for his home city. The following day, he racked up his 150th point (including goals and assists). He says both feats are what he has been edging towards since joining the team six years ago.
“I probably should have hit it earlier if it weren’t for all the COVID-19 delays,” he says.
It’s clearly in the blood for Casey. He is one of five siblings – a sister and four boys – and Toby, Tyler, Casey and Bayley have been playing as a quartet with CBR Brave since May 2017.
“We’re really close siblings, so it’s nice to play hockey and see them pretty regularly,” Casey says.
The family originates from Wollongong, where all children attended the same primary school. There happened to be a skate park down the road and in their spare moments, the Kubaras donned their roller blades and went for a spin.
“This naturally transitioned to putting a stick in our hand and playing hockey,” Casey says.
However, the local rink closed, followed by the next-closest rink, and hockey games became a whole-day affair, with the parents having to drive them places for hours. It was then that the oldest brother, Toby, suggested they try the next-best thing – ice hockey in Sydney.
“So we all went out there for a skate one day, 15 years ago,” Casey says. “And we haven’t looked back since.”
CBR Brave is a semi-professional ice hockey team, born in 2014 when the Canberra Knights folded. Its home venue is the Phillip Ice Skating Centre, known as “The Brave Cave”. The team has claimed one Goodall Cup championship and two H Newman Reid Trophy premierships.
“Definitely a huge highlight of my career,” Casey says.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be on a few good teams where we’ve had a lot of success.”
Casey was 18 years old and fresh out of high school when he joined, but has been going back and forth from the US since 2014, continuing to play ice hockey while in college in New York. Compared with the 16 hours a week he was playing in the US, he says Australia has a less serious connection to hockey.
”If I could do it all day, I would,” he says.
“Here, we only train two hours a week, compared to 16 when I was in the US. Hockey is more of a hobby.”
As it is, Casey works full time in medical device sales, selling surgical equipment to orthopedic surgeons, saving hockey for the weekends.
“Juggling hockey is definitely a commitment and it’s consuming but I don’t really think about it,” he says.
“It’s a really good way for me to release stress and escape turmoil in my life or work. All my troubles wash away the moment I step out there on the ice. It’s really rewarding.”
The hardest part of ice hockey is what you’d expect – staying upright on thin wedges while moving around quickly.
“I guess we were fortunate to be pretty good on our feet with wheels and a lot of those skills are transferable to ice hockey,” Casey says of himself and his siblings.
“It’s like walking once you do it enough.”
The Phillip Ice Skating Centre is the only facility of its type in Canberra, but caters to ages six to 56. Casey says there isn’t a huge local market, but CBR Brave has fans who follow the games around the country, from Melbourne to Perth.
“It’s a niche community, but they’re really passionate.”
CBR Brave remains a firm part of Casey’s plan for the future, and this season, he’s wearing the assistant captain letter on his chest.
“We’re heading in a great direction and it’s a lot of fun here, so – fingers crossed – I’m hoping for more good things in the future.”
CBR Brave will be combatting the Sydney Ice Dogs at 5 pm on Saturday, 13 August. The players will be wearing jerseys sponsored by McDonald’s. People are encouraged to bid on the jerseys, with all proceeds going to Menslink, a charity close to the heart of CBR Brave. Book tickets online.